PRESS RELEASE – March 23, 2021
U of M budget 2021/2022: Students face tuition hike – in return university promises more supports, better online learning
Winnipeg, MB – The University of Manitoba’s Board of Governors has approved a $660 million operating budget for 2021/2022, which includes an average 3.75 per cent rise in tuition across all programs, resulting in a predicted increase of approximately $14.9 million in tuition revenue compared to 2020/2021.
A briefing document submitted to the Board of Governors notes that a 1.75 per cent decrease in the provincial operating grant next year requires more revenue be generated by tuition and fees to maintain the range of programs and services the university currently offers.
UMSU President, Jelynn Dela Cruz says: “Increased enrolment through the pandemic this past year demonstrates that students recognize that going to university is an investment in their future. What often goes without notice is that their education is also a direct investment into the economic well-being of the province, despite bearing the associated financial burden.”
The province informed the University of Manitoba at the end of January that it would see a $5.9 million reduction in its operating grant for the upcoming year. This represents the fourth consecutive year that the Pallister government has chosen to cut provincial funding for Manitoba’s post-secondary institutions.
Dela Cruz adds: “This mistreatment of post-secondary education extends far into the past, before COVID-19. As the Province recognizes our value as the next generation of skilled workers through the recent Skills, Talent, and Knowledge strategy, students refuse to take the consecutive cuts to post-secondary education as our new normal.”
UMSU submitted recommendations totalling $1.5 million to the university’s budget advisory committee at the end of February, proposing increased funding for faculty to adapt open source digital learning materials, and more support for mental health and consent culture programs. The students’ union also called for the university to renew and expand a hardship relief fund for international students at the U of M, created last year to help offset unique pandemic-related costs faced by those still residing in Manitoba.
The U of M has increased student assistance funding in the new budget by $1 million, saying that the additional money will be “targeted to areas of highest need” for both undergraduates and graduate students, including Indigenous and international students.
The budget also includes an additional $1.2 million to improve online teaching and learning, create an “experiential learning centre,” and hire more career counsellors. It also allocates $250,000 toward implementing an equity, diversity and inclusion strategy, something that was a large part of UMSU’s engagement with the university this past year.
There is also an increased allocation to the libraries of just under $850,000, however, it is not clear whether any of this money will be earmarked to go towards Open Educational Resources (OERs), as UMSU had suggested in its budget submission. As part of a survey consultation of the UMSU membership, “adoption of free digital textbooks” arose as students’ highest-ranked priority for increased spending by the U of M, ahead of more than a dozen other options, including increased mental health supports and work-learn placements.
Said Kristin Smith, VP Advocacy at UMSU: “It is disappointing to see that no money has been explicitly earmarked for creating additional capacity within the libraries to champion the use of open educational resources, particularly free digital textbooks. This represents a potentially huge source of student savings, especially during an expansion of online learning – but when OER sits on the side of everyone’s desk it falls through the cracks. “
Smith ends: “Overall, the University should be commended for listening to students recommendations and following up on that with more money for student assistance programs, especially amid a pandemic when finances are stretched more than ever. “
The University of Manitoba Students’ Union representatives on the Board of Governors will be casting their votes AGAINST the proposed tuition and course fees. UMSU will be casting their votes IN FAVOUR of the strategic allocations listed in the 2021-22 overall budget – which include additional support for student accessibility, enhanced teaching and learning, Indigenous scholars, and Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI).
For media inquiries:
Jelynn Dela Cruz, UMSU President – firstname.lastname@example.org
Kristin Smith, UMSU VP Advocacy – email@example.com